Jeffrey Connelly, a middle school and high school math teacher at Schechter School of Long Island (NY), has been named the Open Up Resources Teacher of the Month for January 2022. Connelly is being recognized for his outstanding work in his classroom and ongoing support of teachers across the country as a member of the Open Up Resources National Professional Learning Community.Connelly’s work with Open Up Resources 6–8 Math and Open Up High School Mathematics makes him one of the most innovative teachers in the country. The Open Up Resources math curricula inspire a new way of teaching math by transforming classrooms into hives of activity focusing on discussion, questioning, debate, and the deeper conceptual learning of mathematics that follows.
Connelly was nominated by three educators in his school district. Mayah Teplitskiy, a former student of Connelly, nominated Connelly for his dedication to his students. Teplitskiy shared, “Jeff's goal as a math teacher is to build communities within the classroom by having difficult and important discussions through mathematical discussions. Jeff really cares about his students and dedicates much of his free time to helping students learn math, as well as learn to teach math. His dedication to his students and their growth is truly inspirational. Jeff spends time getting to know each of his students which enables him to help each individual in a way that is specific to them. Jeff is truly a wonderful teacher and deserves to be recognized as Teacher of the Month due dedication to assisting his students to develop deep appreciation for mathematics.”
In her nomination, Maggie Goldberg, a colleague and fellow math teacher, described Connelly as a person of integrity and honor. She explained, “The students love Jeffrey. He is funny without being sarcastic. He makes all his students feel validated. He goes above and beyond for both his students and colleagues. He loves math and that comes through in planning his lessons and how he interacts with his students. He is always looking for new ways to engage the staff and the students.”
Shawn Torgerson, an English teacher and Dean in the district, shared an experience observing Connelly’s math classroom. “Prior to the class, he'd had faculty and students take guesses as to how many beads were in a jar. Then, in the observed class, his eighth graders plotted the responses on a graph and explored a variety of concepts with the data. What's key here is that his lesson was creative, he taught with energy and a clear love for his vocation and his students, and that, most impressively, he worked to create a student-centered environment in which his kids developed and answered questions on their own; they were the learners and the teachers to one another, with Mr. C as the moderator of the class discourse. I was so impressed with the levels of sophistication and maturity that his own management, planning, and demeanor had helped foster in that math class.”
Connelly had moving experiences to share about the transformations he’s seen in the community of his classroom. He explained, “Year after year, the most compelling success story that I get to witness is how the classroom environment transforms. In the beginning of the year, students are a bit timid to engage in the way that Open Up Resources encourages them to because they simply are not used to expressing their ideas in math class. But over time, the change that occurs is truly beautiful. Once the barriers come down, students are talking about mathematics with excitement, pride, and emotion. They’re posing questions, defending their ideas, and most importantly, taking risks. Eventually they become mathematical explorers. It’s what encourages me to show up day after day.”
And he offered some advice to those considering adopting Open Up Resources math curricula: “Do it and don’t look back. If you want to provide your students with a more meaningful mathematical learning experience, start with Open Up Resources. I think you’ll find that you enjoy teaching a little bit more, as have I. Also, it’s fun because the students aren’t the only ones learning: us teachers are as well!” Connelly went on to say, “It’s a curriculum that is dedicated to making mathematical learning accessible for all.”
Open Up Resources is a non-profit on a mission to increase equity in education by making excellent, top-rated curricula freely available to districts. You can learn more at www.openupresources.org.